The bicycle rejuvenates. Climbs and crushes at Antonio Bonini's Giro d'Italia
"Eddy Merckx and I have one thing in common: at the 1978 Milan-Sanremo near Tortona we ended up together with two or three others on the same slope"
Giro d'Italia 1977. Ninth stage, Lucca-Pisa, 29 kilometers time trial: “In the morning Luciano Pezzi, our sporting director at Fiorella, brought us together. Today for you - he commanded - is a day of rest. Instead, I want to see you tomorrow – he added – up front on the Cisa and, even better, up front in Salsomaggiore. Understood? Understood. Back in the standings, I was one of the first to go. I didn't commit myself, I took it easy, but I woke up in a state of grace, my legs turned by themselves, it was enough for me to ride the bike. When I caught up with the runner that had started two minutes earlier, I was surprised. When I caught up with the one taken four minutes earlier, I started pedaling with some conviction. By the time I got to the finish, I had set the fastest time. And the best time remained until the Norwegian Knut Knudsen arrived. In the end I was seventh, but ahead of Baronchelli, Gimondi and Bitossi, and first among the youngsters. I was really happy. If I had left more decisively, maybe maybe who knows. So I stayed to talk to friends and sportsmen, then got back on my bike and went back to the hotel with the team in Lucca. In the evening, at dinner, Pezzi was very angry. And right with me. First of all because, as the first of the youngsters, I should have been on the podium, he had looked for me everywhere and hadn't found me. Then because I had disobeyed his order, to go slowly. Tomorrow – he declared – if you are not in front of the Cisa and, even better, in Salsomaggiore, pack your bags, take the train and go home ”. He didn't come home, Antonio Bonini: “With the best on the Cisa, with the best at the finish line. But Pezzi did not forget what he considered a slight, an affront, a disobedience, as if I wanted to be a phenomenon, a protagonist, a character. Instead I was innocent. The truth is that I was playing at home that day, my legs went without saying and I finished seventh. So much so that at the end of the year he didn't renew my contract and I had to look for a new team”.
The pink race is a tour of memories and dreams, adventures and misadventures, businesses and crises, stories and passions. Another Giro is the column by Marco Pastonesi who will accompany us along the roads of the Giro d'Italia 2023
Born in Massa Carrara (“But by chance, my mother had gone to help her brother, perhaps too much, in the evening they called the midwife and I was born”), always in Lucca (“Humble, peasant family, land and beasts”), the first of the family with a passion for cycling (“The first, a Zapier, from the initials of Zaccagnini Piero, a craftsman in Pontedera, then a mechanic also at Sammontana and Filotex”), the first ride went like this (“The 11 May 1968 in Terricciola, in the Pisano area, halfway through I was exhausted and retired"), he remembers his first victory very well ("Two years later, in Livorno, alone, the only way to win because the sprint was not my forte, then the bunch of flowers, I took it home and gave it to my mother, she was already ill, she would die shortly after"), as he remembers very well his victory in the Saint-Vincent stage at the Giro della Valle d' Aosta as an amateur (“A flight of four or five, then alone, there were also Martinelli, Visentini, Saronni…”), even blue (“At the Corsa della Pace, the Prague-Warsaw-Berlin, one evening braggarts, we laughed and joked, coach Mario Ricci solemnly told us, there's not much to joke about here, guys, we're not in Italy, we're not at the bar"). Then, in 1977, at the age of 24, professionalism.
Two years, never as a character, yet Bonini says those two years were the best of his life. Between myths (“Pizzetti himself, had directed Gimondi, would have directed Pantani, and he had also raced with Coppi, out of respect I always called him her”) and gentlemen (“Alfredo Martini, I called him too, in 1978 he drove a mixed Italian at the Vuelta, a sort of Serie B national team, I was there too, but involved in a massacre I was forced to retire"), among journalists ("Bruno Raschi of the 'Gazzetta dello Sport' had taken a liking to me , once he told me that I had a certain resemblance to Marcello Mastroianni and made me blush, another time he wrote 'the elegant Bonini', it didn't seem like it to me, but if he said so…”) and samples (“Eddy Merckx he seemed like a god to us, there was never a chance to talk to him, also because he was surrounded by the crowd and protected by a cordon of security men, but we do have one thing in common, at the 1978 Milan-Sanremo around of Tortona we ended up together with two or three others on the same escarpment”), between climbs (“Rolle, Pordoi, Falzarego… but the hardest is the Ferentino wall on the Tirreno-Adriatico, the narrow road two and a half metres, the elbows for stay in it, the ramp to do sitting in the saddle otherwise you would roll over") and crushes ("In the Dolomites, but that day Gimondi also fell into crisis and was escorted by the soldiers, I managed to stay with them and arrive within the maximum time") .
Bonini dreamed of winning a couple of times: “Always in that 1977 Giro. The first time in the Vicenza stage, a two-man breakaway with Foresti, we were caught 20 meters from the finish. The second time in the final stage, that of Milan, in a breakaway with Pietro Algeri, Sgalbazzi and the Swiss Sutter, caught at 200 metres".
Bonini is 70 years old, but he doesn't give up: “On foot, in the mountains, sometimes still by bike. I have two of them. A few 'pinwheels', about fifty kilometers and you feel like a goldfinch, 30 years younger, if not in the legs, at least in the heart”. But yes: “That's okay”.